The odds of getting struck by lightning in an 80-year lifetime are 1 in 15,300. The odds of a couple having baby twins are 1 in 250.
The odds of becoming interns at Research Square company were less than 1 in 150 for Jessica Wang, a rising junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Paul Fentress, a rising senior and data science major in the University of California at Berkeley.
Wang and Fentress soundly beat those odds to become part of Research Square Company’s new internship program, which is intended to produce new workplace talent while supporting its many advanced machine learning and software engineering projects.
“This is a pilot program,” said Caroline Binley, a machine learning engineer at Research Square Company and one of the architects behind the internship program. “Our aim is to work with a small set of interns while we evaluate how to make the process beneficial for the business and for potential larger batches of interns going forward.”
Before Wang and Fentress were selected, Research Square’s engineers reviewed more than 300 applications. The top candidates completed assessments that were custom-built by staff for the company’s machine learning and software engineer roles. Final candidates were tested and selected based on the strength of their programming abilities.
Wang and Fentress stood out among all the applicants for the new 10-week internship. Fentress took the machine learning engineer internship, while Wang landed the software engineering role.
Wang was paired with senior software engineer Marek Łaska to, among other things, help automate the process of finding and reporting on journal article retractions after their publication. Her efforts are focused specifically on journals participating in Research Square’s In Review integration service.
“Thanks to Jessica’s work, Research Square Preprint Platform is one of the first that not only links the preprints to the journal published versions, but also automatically reports the most important post-publication editorial decisions, such as withdrawals and retractions,” said Łaska. “Such reporting helps ensure that readers of preprints are immediately informed if there are potential concerns related to the work reported elsewhere.”
Wang says the internship brings her real-world experience on large scale projects and insights into the developer’s daily workday. She also enjoys the flexibility of working from home and says the internship provides multiple learning opportunities.
“I’ve learned more basic technical skills, like understanding the purpose of typescript and getting more efficient with Github,” said Wang. “But I’ve also learned a lot about the developer cycle, which sounds less interesting, but is actually more interesting because no class can teach it. Most importantly to me personally, I’ve learned that I do have a passion for the technological field and that I’ve chosen the right career path.”
Fentress is helping to improve the company’s machine learning system that powers its automated digital editing services. Fentress is focusing on iterative improvements to the system and is finding much success.
Fentress says he has gained much knowledge around the software development life cycle and collaborative code writing, especially where large data repositories are concerned.
“I’ve learned how to build functions that can efficiently process millions of data points,” said Fentress. “I have gotten to write a lot of code in Python and have been able to learn about multi-processing, building command line tools, and how to effectively test code using PyTest fixtures.”
Fentress’ work with Research Square Company also fit his goals and lifestyle.
“This internship had everything I was looking for,” Fentress said. “It included a project that encapsulates the entire machine learning project life cycle, the opportunity to work on a team around talented and experienced machine learning engineers, and the freedom to work from home.”
Jamie Poston, machine learning engineer at Research Square Company and Fentress’ mentor, says the learning experience was mutual.
“I really think this internship has been super beneficial for both Research Square Company and Paul,” said Poston. “We've learned so much through Paul and our internship project. He asked many pertinent questions and made some interesting discoveries throughout the course of his internship. I hope to have more interns on the team in the future.”